Getting tough on prolific drug-addicted offending with a Second Chance Programme to tackle root causes

Our report Desperate for a Fix, launching today in Parliament, sets out how we can use shop theft and a Second Chance Programme to get tough on the causes of prolific drug-addicted offending.

Heroin and crack cocaine, along with the recent explosion in New Psychoactive Substances, are not only blighting communities but drive as much as half of all acquisitive crime — and 70 per cent of shop thefts.

Police recorded shop theft topped 385,000 offences last year, but the true figure, based on Home Office assumptions, is closer to 38 million offences. In 2017, we estimate shop theft cost up to £6.3bn — equivalent to £270 for every household in the country — and more than the average household’s monthly grocery shop.

At the same time, offenders with 36 or more previous convictions or cautions are responsible for an increasing proportion of theft offences dealt with by the criminal justice system — growing from 39 per cent in 2010 to more than 60 per cent last year. Over the same period, the even more prolific cohort of offenders, with more than 60 previous convictions, has doubled.

70 per cent of shop theft is committed by those addicted to heroin and crack cocaine.

At the root of this problem is a complete failure to tackle the addictions that fuel the bulk of theft, with offenders cycling through a criminal justice system that offers fines, community sentences, short prison sentences, and threats, but nothing compelling in the way of true rehabilitation.

It is a broken system that demands fixing and this paper proposes a new sentencing option that would simultaneously offer the offenders a chance of long-term recovery, while providing the victims of crime with real respite.

The CSJ’s Second Chance Programme

Our proposals for a new intensive Second Chance Programme would see up to £250 million invested over five years, targeting up to 10,000 of the most prolific drug-addicted offenders. It uses shop theft as the trigger for tackling and reducing other more serious offending, such as burglary, and allows for a place-based approach to help clean up specific estates or towns blighted with crime and anti-social behaviour linked to prolific drug-addicted offenders.

The Second Chance Programme would target up to 10,000 of the most prolific drug-addicted offenders, helping reduce crime and tackle the root causes of crime.

The CSJ Second Chance Programme would:

  • Recommendation 1: Create a two-year programme for the most prolific drug-addicted offenders, providing immediate crime reduction and drug recovery benefits of incapacitation through a Secure Phase, followed by an intensive community-based Residential Phase and Supportive Phase.
  • Recommendation 2: Build a Criminal Justice Transformation Fund (first proposed in A Woman-Centred Approach) incorporating a Second Chance component, providing up to £25 million per year in programme funding with the expectation that participating Police and Crime Commissioners match this funding via their precept, usable reserves, and/or underspends.
  • Recommendation 3: Expect Police and Crime commissioners to work with their partners to identify localities and cohorts of prolific drug-addicted acquisitive offenders and target them through a Second Chance Programme pilot using shop theft as a trigger.
  • Recommnedation 4: Be enhanced through the piloting of problem-solving courts, making use of judicial monitoring to focus and drive improved outcomes in relation to the prolific drug-addicted cohort.
  • Recommendation 5: Redirect any savings generated from the Second Chance Programme to the Justice Reinvestment component of the Criminal Justice Transformation Fund.

Assuming a modest 10 per cent reduction in the discounted lifetime social and economic costs associated with problematic Class A drug use, this combined investment of £250 million over five years could see savings of between £500 million and £1 billion in discounted lifetime costs.

Listen to Rory Geoghegan and Patrick Spencer discuss ‘Desperate for a Fix’ in the inaugural CSJ podcast.

Furthermore, with business crimes, like shop theft, accounting for 25 per cent of crime, we also make a number of recommendations that would both support the successful targeting and delivering of the Second Chance Programme and help tackle shop theft and related crimes:

Improving the reporting, prevention, and detection of crime

  • Recommendation 6: Police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners should be clear on what a ‘good response’ looks like and what constitutes ‘good reporting’ from businesses and victims more generally. This would should be co-ordinated by the National Business Crime Centre, with sector-specific activity, such as “Op Retail”, a programme led by Hampshire Constabulary, to help develop clear and well-understood local protocols and standards.
  • Recommendation 7: The Home Office should look favourably on Police Transformation Fund bids seeking to support the harnessing of technolgoy to deliver improved reporting, detection, and intelligence around both individual shop theft offenders and the organsied criminal groups active in this arena.
  • Recommendation 8: The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) should develop open standards and a digital platform by which trusted partners can adequately verify the identity and eligibility of individuals for referral to other services — and help improve intelligence around crime and the safeguarding response to vulnerable individuals.
  • Recommendation 9: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) should conduct a thematic review of the response to business and retail crime by police forces in England and Wales. HMICFRS should also incorporate specific consideration fo the response to business and retail crime in their inspection framework and methodology.

Ensuring accountability and effective strategies for tackling crime

  • Recommendation 10: The National Business Crime Centre should support Chief Constables in appointing a national network of dedicated full-time police force leads for business crime. Each force could then better support the development of Business Crime Advisory Groups, Business Crime Reduction Partnerships and Business Improvement Districts to help local police and responsible local businesses co-produce public safety and achieve reductions in crime.
  • Recommendation 11: The Home Office should enhance police.uk to support the publishing of weekly and monthly crime statistics to help drive accountability of Police and Crime Commissioners and police forces for tackling crimes and trends in crime.

Helping sentencers get serious about Second Chances

  • Recommendation 12: Statements taken by police from victims of, and witnesses to, shop theft and related “low level” offending should always explain and accurately describe whether any force was used ot threatened. The CPS should refuse to routinely accept guilty pleas which do not adequately reflect the use or threat of force recorded in such evidence.
  • Recommendation 13: The Ministry of Justice should launch a review of Pre-Sentence Reports (PSRs) and explore how they might be more effectively produced to better convey an accurate understanding of the root causes of offending, along with greater detail on the pattern of offending. Consideration should also be given to how technology might be used to help test the veracity of claims made by the defendant and to allow other agencies to feed into the PSRs.
  • Recommendation 14: Quarterly Crime and Criminal Justice Briefings for the local judiciary with inputs from police, probation, and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
  • Recommendation 15: Locally, police forces and business should undertake to make greater and more effective use of both Community Impact Statements and Impact Statements for Business.
  • Recommendation 16: Commence Section 151 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to allow courts to deal more appropriately with “low-level” offences by repeat offenders through the use of community orders, rather than fines, and to provide the potential for the root causes of offending to be tackled.

Making better use of new and existing arrangements to prevent crime

  • Recommendation 17: The emerging standards for Business Crime Reduction Partnerships (BCRPs) should include consideration of crime reduction and public safety in the wider community, including so-called secondary locations. Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) should ensure they address issues of Crime, Safety and Security in their initial and renewal manifestos.
  • Recommendation 18: PCCs should work with Chief Constables to develop packages of measures — incorporating Neighbourhood Watch, StreetWatch, BCRP/BID resources, CCTV incentives, and more — that can be offered proactively to smaller or more vulnerable retailers, businesses and communities, or reactively in the wake of repeated incidents, alongside any police response.
  • Recommendation 19: Government and Police and Crime Commissioners, working with local authorities, should consider developing schemes for high-crime or vulnerable premises that would remedy the disincentives businesses can face in relation to installing or improving existing CCTV and other security measures.
  • Recommendation 20: Government should commission the creation of a set of open standards relating to CCTV for the purposes of crime prevention, detection, and the promotion of public safety, and include a review of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s guidance to homeowners and businesses on the use of CCTV and coverage of public spaces.
  • Recommendation 21: Government should ensure that every offender with an identified financial need leaves prison with access to a minimum of the Core Allowance of Universal Credit, helping reduce crime and reinforcing the pro-social expectation of resettlement into the community.

Read Desperate for a Fix


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